In the Bible we’re confronted with many instances where the concept of ‘joy’ makes an appearance. There’s the idea of the ‘joy of the Lord’ being our strength (Nehemiah 8:10), the request of having the ‘joy of salvation’ restored to David (Psalm 51:12) or Jesus enduring the cross due to the ‘joy set before him’ (Hebrews 12:2).
It seems that the concept of joy, more often than not, is brought up in the really hard times. In Nehemiah, the Israelites were grieving their wrong doings against God but God was telling them to stop their grieving and let His joy be their strength.
In the Psalms, King David was also grieving his sin against God and was asking that God would revitalise the joy he had once known in walking closely with Him.
Hebrews mentions that because of the joy Jesus was later to experience, He went ahead with the Father’s plan in achieving total salvation by dying for those who were to be saved.
Michael, a 15 year old who was attacked in the December 2013 on his way home from school
Hang on a minute
Do you notice the theme? All three examples link joy to hardship but it also seems that joy is something that helps fuel endurance!
The idea of gaining joy during hardship sounds bonkers doesn't it? The key word here is ‘knowing’. It’s when we know what lies before us in eternity, like Jesus did, we can stir up the will to keep going!
If Jesus considers, what lies ahead in eternity, to be the greatest joy then that surely gives licence for us to do so too. By specifically looking in the Bible at what God discloses about eternity, we too can begin to get excited!
Two young children who survived the typhoon in the Philippines, 2013
A good point
However, although there’s complete joy to be found in eternity, the fact that God has revealed to us His eternal plan can only mean that there is joy to be experienced right now!
There’s the joy in knowing that we’re adopted by God when He didn't have to and there’s the joy of knowing what awaits us when we go to be with Him!
We can engage our imaginations and fill our minds with the things God says about salvation and eternity with Him and let it excite us. It’s when we know these things, that we begin to experience joy.
This explains why Paul in the book of Romans can say…
“…More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…”Romans 5:3-4
Timorese lady, Terezinha da Costa, had her leg amputated after a horrific traffic accident
It's out of kindness
So it looks like it is possible to have joy even when things aren't going well. When working for an international mission organisation like MAF, there are many things that can potentially go wrong and when they do, the staff have to take the brunt! God has been so kind as to show us how we can be joyful even in those times of difficulty.
MAF plane crash site during first ever survey flight in South Sudan, 1948